HAPPY NYE FROM THE MIA!

             By Artist Todd White more info by clicking HERE.

Darlings!  Happy New Year!  If you are like me, you are ready to kiss 2010 GOODBYE.  (and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!)  Haha!  It's not that it was a very bad year for La Diva, quite the contrary.  I worked hard and it paid off, got a trip back home to Sydney Australia, saw some great friends and family get married and then have babies.   Heck, in some respects, it was a MIGHTY FINE YEAR!  La Diva is just ready for a NEW START!

And with any new start always comes a plan and resolutions.  Now, to be honest, I NEVER do New Year's resolutions because 1. I always believe in moving forward anyway so for La Diva, change and progress is a constant, and 2. I believe that MY New Year starts with my birthday in February each year.  But for tradition's sake, here are a few of La Diva's New Year's resolutions.  



Woo hoo, muumuus!  Nothing makes an ample bust look MORE FREAKIN' AMPLE than a lovely muumuu!  La Diva better get crackin' with a diet plan before I have to start shopping for dresses at Omar the Tent Man!

PERSONAL:

  1. DIET!  Surprise, surprise, a cocktail guzzling chef that wants to diet in the New Year?  How odd!  I want to lose that nasty extra 10 lbs. that doesn't seem to want to disengage itself from my ample bottom and waist!  (The DJ doesn't mind one bit but the vain fashion lovin' La Diva DOES!)
  2. Get my allergies under control so I can live a normal life.  La Diva has been very sick ever since last March and has been living with a compromised immune system.  It stops me from doing EVEN more than I already do and I feel like I'm living my life at half speed and half mast.  Unacceptable for a high energy, fast-moving Diva!

 La Diva is SERIOUSLY considering using the impeccable and results-driven PR services of Edina Monsoon in the New Year!  FABULOUS!

BUSINESS:

  1. Get more PR and the WORD OUT about my FABULOUS cooking and cocktail classes and culinary entertainment services!  
  2. Get more corporate gigs!  Instead of the usual boring networking events at hotels and restaurants for the business set, La Diva Cucina Inc. offers "Communications with Libations" for corporate clients!  I've done a few corporate parties so far and everyone had a ball.  My cooking and cocktail classes are a unique and fun way to get everyone talking and with La Diva as hostess, I will "get the ball rolling!" For more info click HERE.
  3. As an ARMY OF ONE, I have to always consider how to "work smart" so I can make money, enjoy a flexible schedule and have a viable business.  I have decided to "reach out" to others I've met in the business world to seek out their help by barter or whatever means necessary.  Sometimes a Diva just CAN'T do it all!

What, you think thees ees joke?  Ees no joke!  La Diva REALLY does have a potato cookbook from the 1950's!  I just can't find it.  Maybe that's a good thing?

CULINARY:

  1. Continue learning everything I can and to push myself to try new techniques.
  2. Really GET STUCK INTO the myriad cookbooks I've bought or received as gifts in the last couple of years!  La Diva has at least 20 new cookbooks that I've hardly even looked at!
  3. CONQUER DOUGH!  As you know, La Diva DOES NOT DO DOUGH of any sort and I will continue to push myself by tackling dough of any sort including more pasta and bread!
  4. Tackle ICE CREAM!  I LOVE ice cream.  The DJ loves ice cream.  I have an ice cream maker.  So, what's the problem?  Texture.  I've had a couple of failed attempts that were not quite right so just continued to buy the expensive super premium stuff, while resenting each bite!  Bill over at Tinkering with Dinner is an ice cream maker/experiment extraordinaire, so I'll be checking out all of his past ice cream posts for guidance.
Have YOU made any resolutions, darling?

As a hospitality veteran, I must admit, I have not had many New Year's Eves where I was not bartending.  Even last year I was bartending and serving at a posh dinner party of ten in a luxury highrise on the beach, good money but I'm tired of waiting on others.  This year, I have very loose plans that involve friends, food and fireworks.



Finally, do you have any plans for this evening?  Well, if you have no place to go, then COME ON DOWN TO BOXER'S PAR-TAY!  YEP, the lovely BOXER  has come up with a brilliant idea for all of her blogging buddies to celebrate the New Year together.  She's hosting a cyber party with games and fun with the intent to have a good time while raising money for charity.  The party will be going all weekend and I'm going to see what I can do to contribute.  For more party info and to join the fun, click HERE.

Pop by again over the weekend, darlings, and have a SAFE and FESTIVE New Year's!  Ciao, darlings, mwah, mwah! xo

A little R-E-S-P-E-C-T for bakers, please?!


Darlings!  I'm going to just come right out and say it:  I BLAME IT ALL ON CRATE AND BARREL.  I do.

Every year they send me multiple catalogues flogging their Christmas wares, their cookie cutters, snowmen napkins and matching cocoa mugs, tree ornaments and glass candle holders.  They'll sell their blue-toopers,  their ta-tinkers and gar-dinkers. They'll flog their drum-dinkers,  their slew-slumpers and who-wunkers, they'll sell it all at high cost, those expensive motherf*ckers. 

Oops.  La Diva got carried away.  Ahem.

In any case it was THIS photo that got La Diva to thinkin' that "Hey!  Why don't I make some spesh Christmas cookies this year?  Why, I could ice them and pipe them and cutesy them up!  With fab cookie cutters to cut them all, yup!"

What fun!  La Diva hadn't made rolled cookies for years!

So, I searched for a sugar cookie recipe, looked at  reviews, decided on Alton Brown's, seemed easy to do.

 Click HERE for Alton Brown's sugar cookie recipe.

I went to the grocery to find me some cutters, but to my dismay, "No cutters," I muttered.  I searched online and found there were many, but at $13 each, that's a pretty penny!  

So, La Diva decided to just use my little round fluted pastry cutters where my creativity in icing would have to make up for the lack of interesting shapes.

The first thing that went wrong was my silicon mats were just a tad too large to fit the baking sheet.  "No worries, this'll still do the job," I thought to myself.  But what ended up happening was that the cookies would be bent on the mat as it was not lying flat.  Bent cookies?  La Diva was not off to a great start!  I put all the flat ones out to be decorated while the big bear man DJ Nevah L8 took care of the less than perfect cookies!

I got out the piping bag, sugar and gel, knowing full well I was in baking hell.

When I was little, my mother taught me to make up cookie icing by simply using powdered sugar and water.  La Diva remembers that I used to LOVE making all the specially mixed colors like purple and orange.  It seemed easy enough so I began to mix the icing.  But the lumps wouldn't come out of the sugar.  And it was runny!  I added loads more of the powdered sugar and finally got the right consistency.  I iced up all the cookies.  

I iced them in green, I iced them in red.  Then got bored with tradition and thought instead, "Why not do purple and orange and yellow?  Why, they'll all taste the same:  buttery, sugary and mellow!"

So, I put them on racks and allowed them to dry, then searched online for piping icing to try.

 I found a lot of good decorating tips and icing recipes HERE.

So, I made the frosting with lashings of butter, put it in the bag and with my hands all a flutter, began to ice the cookies with care, but got frustrated after only one, go ON, would I dare?

 I sent this plate over to our new neighbor Eddie.  Hope he likes them, I left them on his door!

I made smileys and snowflakes and swirly curly cues, initials and flowers and....  Sh*t.  I can't think of anything that rhymes with cues.  Booze?  Shoes?  What to do, what to do?

The fact is, making a seemingly simple snowflake design with straight lines was a heck of a lot harder than I thought!  You had to keep a constant and consistent pressure on the icing in the bag otherwise you would not have a nice flowing line.  Also, all air must be squeezed out of the bag otherwise you'll have a tiny frosting explosion that looks none too pretty.  The heat of my hand also played a role as the frosting was warmed and easier to pipe as I got closer to the tip of the bag, thus making the icing come out fast and furious.  


So the moral of the story I'll tell you right now, is have respect for the bakers who do this all the time with such Wow!  With patience and skill and hands that are steady, they make beautiful creations, better than the plate I gave Eddie.

Do YOU have any "holiday baking from hell" stories?  La Diva wants to hear all about it!  Ciao, darlings!

Happy Holidaze!


La Diva's Christmas CD is available at select stores and Amazon!  Buy it now!  

(Thanks to Chickory for the cool cover design!)

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all the best to YOU for a peaceful and prosperous New Year!

You go, I go, DAGO!

Super versatile polenta can be served creamy like mash or spread into a tray, cooled, sliced and fried or grilled as well as layered and baked!

Hello, darlings, do you like my little play on words?  Seeing as I come from Italian ancestry, I am allowed to say "dago" without offending!  Haha!  Well, this post is going to be short and sweet as me and the DJ have been sick with the flu for over a week.  Snotty, achy, crabby,  tired, you know the routine.  We've been living on Chinese takeaway, pretzel rods (for the sorest of throats) and the amazing (but not exactly healthy!) Racine Danish Kringles, that a dear friend sends us every year at Christmastime.  Finally, on Sunday, I felt well enough to cook some decent food for us.

But what to make?

The fridge was dismally bare.  I managed to scrounge up a bag of dandelion greens (that, amazingly were still 'good' after an entire week) some cream, a handful of grape tomatoes, a few leaves of wilted lettuce and that's about it.  I knew I had some chicken in the freezer and took out a couple of organic breasts.  Then, I went into the pantry and pulled out the polenta.  Yep.  I had all the makin's for a nice Eyetalian dinner!  La Diva made

Sauteed Spicy Dandelion Greens with Garlic over Creamy Polenta with Breaded Italian Chicken!  

You can use spinach or kale for this dish as well.  Make sure to wash the greens well in a sink full of water and make sure you cut off the tough stems at the bottom.

Polenta:  Boil 1.5 cups water, add  a teaspoon of mushroom stock and whisk in a half cup of polenta.  Switching to a wooden spoon, stir continuously until cooked through and smooth, about five minutes.  Stir through knob of butter, 1/4 cup grated parmigiano cheese and 1/4 cup cream.   Polenta should be the texture of mashed potatoes.  Remove from heat.

Dandelion greens:  To a hot saute pan add olive oil and red pepper flakes, turn down heat to medium and add greens, constantly stirring.  Add one minced garlic clove and as soon as greens begin to wilt, remove from heat.

Chicken breasts:  Pound two breasts until even at a 1/4 of an inch thick.  Bread with flour, egg and panko Japanese bread crumbs* seasoned with Italian seasoning, garlic salt and freshly grated parmigiano cheese.  Pan fry in olive oil in hot pan until cooked through and golden brown on both sides.

*DON'T tell my Papa I used Japanese bread crumbs.  He'd cry.  When I told him what I was going to make, he said, "Ya got any Progresso?  They make THE BEST breadcrumbs.  Make sure you get the seasoned ones."    "Okay, Papa, okay."  I'd hate to have his 70-year-old heart broken by you tellin' him Progresso DON'T make the best.  So, let's keep this between us, capiche?  Papa will NEVER understand. 

Now, distribute polenta evenly to both plates, pile on greens and then chicken on top.  Mangia!



RESULT:  You know, sometimes, I can't believe I can cook up something so flavorful and satisfying out of nothing!   Especially when I'm just not feeling 100%.  Just goes to show you that if you keep a well stocked pantry, you can create a very tasty dinner with little or no vegetables.  I served the entree with a pear and gorgonzola side salad to complete the meal.  The panko added such a nice crunch and was the perfect foil for the soft polenta texture.  The bitterness of the dandelion greens was offset by the creamy polenta with just the right amount of tang from the cheese.   And the chicken, cooked to perfection, was moist and delicious.  

Darlings, the next time you think you have "nothing" to cook and are tempted to order out, take another look in your pantry and freezer.  I betcha, I just betcha, you'll be able to whip up something just as tasty from 'nothing!'



Here's a little video that reminds La Diva of her Christmas' past with the Eyetalian side of my family back in Detroit!   I'll never forget my great Auntie Ann, holding her little chihuahua Rocky in her arms, and coaching him to howl while she crooned:  "Where's papa?  Where's papa?"  Her favorite name for my great uncle (whom dad insisted looked just like George Raft) was "That Summabeetch."  Nice.


BUON NATALE, DARLINGS!!

La Diva's More-ish Moorish Chicken Stew!


Hello Darlings!  Well, the weather here in Miami Beach has been a bit difficult to determine....a few days ago we got the blustery North's cold front where the temperatures dipped down into the 40's and 50's.  And yesterday, the sun was strong and hot and Southern Florida temperatures reached the 80's!  (You KNOW La Diva was at the pool!)  Within three days I had the air con blasting, the windows open and then closed with the heat on!  I'm not complaining, believe me, because I know everywhere else in the country people are freezing their little patooties off!

Since Southern Florida winters are sooo mild, this ex-Michigander has to try to find excuses to make comfort food and when the temperature dips even slightly into the 60's, the cravings for warm and hearty dinners begin to take hold of me!

As per usual, I came up with this combo based on what was in La Diva's fridge.  I usually get all my organic veggies from the co-op or the farmer's market, but wouldn't you know it, La Diva was at Costco recently and for some reason thought that a HUGE bag of French green beans looked so good, I couldn't resist.  Five days later after steaming handfuls for dinner each night, I found I still had half a bag.  It was like the Everlasting Gobstopper of beans, the more I took, the more I seemed to be left with.

I also had a few small organic chicken thighs and a  butternut squash that I'd been keeping for risotto, so I wanted to use those too.  Instead of falling back on my usual Eyetalian seasonings for this combo, La Diva thought I'd mix it up, habibi, by offering a comfy casserole with North African and Moroccan spices!  I remembered I had a pre-mixed tagine spice mix from Herbies and would combine everything with some canned chickpeas.  I now had all the makings for a divine North African influenced stew.

La Diva thinks that some  hijabs are gorgeous and way cool; I have heard valid arguments  for all sides regarding their ban in France.  However, what I DON'T agree with are views that are based on xenophobia, racism and hysteria.   My MIL said to me during her recent visit about the hijab (burqua/ nirqab)  "What if there was a man (i.e. a "terrorist in a burqua") underneath there?"  Of course, the complete ridiculousness of her paranoid statement made me think of THIS.  
God bless America.






















La Diva's More-ish Moorish Chicken Stew

Cut four small organic chicken thighs into bite size pieces, salt generously and brown in a hot Dutch oven with olive oil.



Add one chopped white onion plus 2 tablespoons Herbie's tagine spice blend.  What?  You don't have any Herbie's tagine mix?  Not to worry, darlings, just use a combination of these ground spices to taste:  paprika, coriander seed, cassia (cinnamon), allspice, chilli, cloves, green cardamom.  Stir well and then deglaze pot with a bit of chicken broth, making sure to scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom.  



 Now, add a strained can of chick peas, about a dozen grape tomatoes and the rest of the chicken broth, about two cups.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for between 30-40 minutes until the chicken is tender.



 Then, add two cups of pumpkin or squash chopped into 1 inch chunks.  Cook for another ten minutes, uncovered.  Finally, add a 1/2 lb. of cleaned, trimmed and tailed green beans cut into bite size pieces.



Cook the green beans for another five minutes or until they are just tender.  Serve over buttered, fluffy couscous and then garnish with lemon zest, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and chopped cilantro and flat leaf parsley!



RESULT:  I gotta tell you, this stew came out delicious!  While the dish was certainly warming and filling, it was not too heavy, low fat, full of fiber and very satisfying.  Don't forget to add the lemon zest, juice and green garnishes, for these all combine to brighten the flavors of the dish.  La Diva doesn't see why you couldn't use other veggie combos like  potatoes, zucchini or sweet  potatoes, feel free to experiment with what YOU have on hand!  The stew was so MORE-ISH that hubby went back for seconds and sopped up all the juices with crusty baguette and butter.  

Darlings, I hope you enjoyed my More-ish Moorish Chicken Stew.  Please think about  about making it when trying something new!  Ciao for now, darlings!

My last class of the year guarantees to be fun and festive!  small bites, BIG DRINKS cooking and cocktail class will be held December 29.  Click HERE for more details!

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Art Basel 2010: Hello Kitty's 50th Birthday Partay!

Hello Kitty celebrates her 50th birthday with a party and a pop up gallery in Miami for Art Basel 2010!
Darlings!  December brings the Silly Season to all but to La Diva and other art lovin' Miamians, it brings the fabulastic ART BASEL and it's La Diva's favorite time of the year!  Art Basel Miami is the most important (and largest!) art event in the country and is a sister event to Switzerland's prestigious Art Basel.  For one week, the city of Miami is FLOODED with artists, art dealers, collectors, pick pockets, grifters, tourists, freeloaders, hipsters, drunks, prostitutes and art lovers all coming together to create a fun and culturally stimulating vibe to our Magic City!



I am La Diva and I will be your hostess guiding you through this week's magic and madness!

First things first, La Diva made a BEELINE for  the new Christian Louboutin store in the Design District.  Well, it was RIGHT THERE, after all!  Was I meant to just walk right by?!




Not much cushioning for the ball of the foot but these sure are purdy!

Well, what is THIS?!  ANOTHER shoe store?  FABULOUS!  Must investigate!

  Those cool faceted shoes on the right are made of plastic fantastic!  (wonder how comfy they'd be?)

Yep, those sandals in the front have La Diva's name ALL OVER THEM! 

Patience, dear heart, we will get to more traditional forms of ART shortly......but in the meantime,  AREN'T THESE BADASS?!

What color would YOU pick?!  WANT.


 Well, it was time to meet hubby and hit the home design shops with Robert, our interior designer escort of Bloom Interior Architecture.   We had fun traipsing around the beautiful design showrooms, imbibing in champagne and Art Basel chit chat, but the time had come to go to the Hello Kitty opening night party!

The party was jam packed with hipsters and Hello Kitty fans!

Of course, no Japanese art exhibition would be complete without the Harajuku girls!



Kuromi is a La Diva fave!




















This was a cool series of paintings that covered one entire wall and was not to be broken up but sold as an entire piece.





 Speaking of "small gifts" the Hello Kitty store was so packed that we had to queue (much to the chagrin of the DJ!) to get in.  I bought some stickers but imagine the craptastic stuff to spend your money on!




 Many artists, including RAW comix icon Gary Panter and Mark Mothersbaugh (lead singer of Devo), contributed to the show.



 Feel free to click on any photo to enlarge and see more detail.









Dark.











Shades of Keith Haring?






 











Sometimes the best stuff is on the streets and out of the galleries! Crocheted bicycle chained to pole.









Poster outside of Hello Kitty gallery pasted on pole.  Weird and funny!
































 Darlings, did you enjoy your little tour of Art Basel and Hello Kitty's birthday bash?  I thought you would!  The Hello Kitty gallery is open every day of the festival and you can learn more about it by clicking HERE.  

There is more to come, darlings, so stay tuned!  Ciao!
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